This is the short letter I published when I announced that I would move away from Areo, a digital magazine that I founded. It’s reprinted on my website for the sake of record. You can read the original by clicking here and read the nice reader comments I received by clicking here.
In the Spring of 2016, I took a John Milton poetry class as a part of my MA requirement. I hated a lot of it. Though I constantly wondered what I was doing in there while the class was in session, I did console myself towards the end of the year by reminding myself that I had at least walked away with something: A name.
Areo’s name was inspired by John Milton’s Areopagitica, a speech the English poet wrote and delivered which condemned pre-publication censorship. (Perhaps now that you know the origins of its name you’ll be less likely to call it “Aero”!) The themes I set out at the onset of this project were loosely related to Milton’s piece of writing. I wrote the following as a mission statement:
“We’re an opinion and analysis digital magazine focused on current affairs — in particular: Humanism, Culture, Politics, Human Rights, Science, and, most importantly, Free Expression.
We believe in the unfettered freedom to explore, think, and challenge ideas and concepts, and we’re intent on taking part in the conversations that will shape our tomorrow.”
And for the last year and a half I worked hard on embodying that statement. I sent emails at odd hours, edited feverishly after a long day’s work and late into the night, and spent my spare time squeezing out ideas for how I could grow Areo and its reach. I published well thought out arguments and positions, and I published pieces which, looking back on them, I probably would not consider worthy again. It’s been a learning process for sure and I’ve met some wonderful people along the way.
I started Areo because I was frustrated; I was disappointed at what many outlets deemed to be intelligent criticism when in my view it was just a manifestation of base tribalism. One thing which perplexes me, even today, is that many hold their ideological opponents to higher standards than they hold their own group: It’s ok for us to behave poorly because we’re the good guys!
I thought I could do better. I thought people were in search of something else, a different voice, something that cut through the bullshit. Maybe I was naive (and maybe that’s what a lack of awareness feels like), but in my view you sometimes just have to put yourself out there and do something to make an impact. That something for me was Areo.
But today I’m announcing that I’m stepping away. Areo has consumed me for the past year and a half. And thinking about all the stuff you need to be aware of while running a current affairs magazine is — sometimes — very wearisome. Trying to keep up with the latest in the news cycle and publish positions accordingly is like running a marathon without an end. As soon as you think you’re nearing the 25 mile mark a sign tells you that there’s actually 25 more to run; as soon as one controversy is over another erupts. Some people are cut out for this type of work — they enjoy it. But the longer I’ve spent in this role and running on this track the easier it’s been for me to see that I’m not.
So while I say goodbye, and while I have your attention, I’d like to say a sincere thank you to Helen Pluckrose and Oliver Traldi for helping me with this project for the past 5–6 months. They’ve been a large part of this experience and without them I couldn’t have taken Areo to where it is today.
And then obviously there are all the writers who have written for me. To those who answered my eager emails in the early days of Areo to those who waited patiently while I took days to respond to their simple queries — without your words and skills Areo could not be where it is today.
And finally, of course, you, Areo readers, subscribers, and supporters. Without your eyeballs on your various screens, without your shares, likes, retweets, favorites, comments, and advocacy Areo could not have grown to the modest size it is now. Without you believing in what I was doing and the writers I was publishing I could not have accomplished what I’ve accomplished so far. So, thank you!
What comes next for Areo? Well there’s good news: Helen Pluckrose is taking over as Editor in Chief and Iona Italia is coming on board as an Assistant Editor. I trust you need no introduction to either of them, but if you need a refresher you can read Helen’s work here and Iona’s work here. I really am stepping away from Areo so I won’t have any editorial input. Helen and Iona will be in charge. What happens to Areo is up to them now — and you.
Which leads us to the issue of funding. As you know — or might not know — getting people to pay for content they find online, even when they find that content useful, is not easy. So far over 250 of you have decided to support me through Patreon. Today, I ask you to consider continuing to support Areo through it’s new Patreon account which Helen will run. I’ve put my money where my mouth is and have already joined as a supporter. I still think Areo’s voice has a place in the world of commentary and analysis writing so I hope you’ll join me in helping Areo to continue its growth under a different steward. You can start supporting Areo here.
What comes next for me? I don’t know. I’m only a minuscule fish in this big game of writers, editors, and publishers and for the most part I’m content with gnawing at the algae and floating around. Perhaps I’ll work on becoming a better writer, perhaps I won’t and I’ll just take a nice long break and just focus on being a normal 25 year old.
Not knowing what’s next feels nice.